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Is Education A Worthwhile Investment?

With a Congress that is delaying action on impending Stafford Loan interest rate increases, students may question whether or not education is a good investment.(They may also be questioning education in general, but for other reasons.)

One of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, did not complete college, but holding him up as an example as to why college might be a bad investment is a bad idea.Not everyone can be Bill Gates, and not everyone can create a game-changing company.Instead, most of us have to rely on what we know to get ahead in this world.
Knowledge really only comes from one place - experience.Generally, we learn from our own experiences best, but we can learn from other's experiences as well.As children, we were all told not to touch the stove because it was hot.That came from our parents' experiences.Most of us decided that we didn't know what hot was, so we touched the stove even against the warnings of our parents.Then we found out through our own experience what hot was, and most of us won't touch the stove again.
So if college is a place where we learn from others' experiences through textbooks and carefully set up science experiments and the work world is where we learn from our own experiences, what makes more sense - four years of college or four years of work?The answer partly depends on the world view of the person asking the question.
The advantages of going to college include being able to build on the experience of others, living in a social atmosphere where it is easier to meet people and make friends, putting off any "real" responsibilities, and being able to get more prestigious jobs.
The greatest disadvantages of going to college are being saddled with an enormous amount of debt even when going to a relatively cheap school like a community college and the loss of potential earnings while in college.
People who attend college tend to make more money once they have graduated, and there are certain jobs like doctor and lawyer that cannot be done without a college education of some level.The largest problem comes from the debt that is accumulated during the college years.Even if a student is able to get scholarships, they often come out of school with more than $20,000 in loans, and it can be much higher depending on the program and the number of years in school.
The accumulated debt may mean that the student puts off having a family, works 16 or more hours a day and still has trouble making ends meet, and with the job market the way it is, a student may not even be able to find a job in his or her degree area.
Entering the work world immediately gives the person the opportunity to accumulate wealth immediately.A savvy student may be able to save money throughout the four years that college would normally happen.The problem arises when the job has a paper ceiling.Some people may be perfectly happy working the same job their entire lives, but anyone who wants to move up in corporate America usually needs a degree.That means that the person's earning potential will be capped at a certain level with no opportunity for advancement unless they go back to school, which can be a huge adjustment for an older person.
Most people would say that education is worth the investment.It certainly provides the opportunity to become more intelligent and to make friendships that last a lifetime, but every person needs to decide for him or herself whether the debt accumulation and the potential for earning opportunities is worth the opportunity costs.

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